No need to break the bank when you're buying a slow cooker. Spend more money and you may get lots of extra features but not necessarily better chili. Even the most basic models can slowly and steadily turn beans and beef into something mouthwateringly delicious. That said, you don't want to spend money on a dud, either.
Here are the nine best budget-friendly slow cookers on the market.
- Black + Decker WiFi-Enabled 6-Quart Slow Cooker, $50 at Walmart: Take a step into the brave "new" world of technology with this wifi-connected slow cooker. Using an app on your phone, you can control it from the laundry room or even the office, as long as you're comfortable leaving it on and unwatched all day. This could come in handy when you realize you're going to be home a lot sooner than you expected and want to switch it from low to high and shorten the cooking time. In addition, with the app, you can search for recipes or share on social media. A locking lid means no mess when you bring your dish to a party.
- Hamilton Beach Simplicity 6-Quart Slow Cooker, $40: The name says it all. The stainless steel Simplicity isn't fussy in design or directions. It does have digital controls, but they're very intuitive to operate. With it, you get a strap that keeps the lid firmly in place so you don't wind up with gravy in the car on your way to a potluck.
- West Bend 5-Quart Slow Cooker, $40 at Target: Here, you get lots of versatility! The 5-quart cooking pot sits on a heated base to slow cook. You can also use the pot on the stove, let's say to brown beef before slow cooking, or in the oven as a casserole dish. Plus, you can put the base into action as a griddle. There's a choice of five temperature settings including two that are low enough to keep stew or pancakes warm. Nonstick surfaces make cleanup practically a non-issue.
- Black + Decker 7-Quart Slow Cooker, $40: Not only is this slow cooker not boring, but the attractive teal blue appliance also has a whopping 7-quart capacity. Bring on the big-batch chili recipe! When you take off the lid you can prop it on either handle to avoid a mess on the countertop.
- Hamilton Beach Programmable Right Size Multi-Quart Slow Cooker, $40: Sometimes you feel like making a small batch of artichoke dip for snacking, and other times you want enough chicken soup to get you through the week. But let's face it — who has room in their cabinets for more than one size slow cooker? Here you get three options in one crock. Fill it to the 2-, 4-, or 6-quart mark, then program in your time on the electronic control and the slow cooker adjusts the time for the size. If you're not around when your dish is done, the cooker goes into warm automatically.
- Crock-Pot Casserole Crock 2.5-Quart Oval Slow Cooker, $32: Here's a slow cooker with a crock that's not as big or deep as most, making it ideal for lasagna, green bean casserole, or bread pudding. When you're not slow cooking you can use the dish in the oven. The lid locks on so you can bring an apple cobbler to a bake sale intact.
- NFL Crock-Pot Slow Cooker, $30 at Crock-Pot: Talk about game! Whether you're bringing wings to a tailgate or munching on them in front of the TV, you may just find they taste inexplicably better when you dish them up from a cooker emblazoned with your team's insignia. Available in 29 NFL logos (as well as more than 20 college ones, this 2.5-quart manual slow cooker is sized for sides and apps like beans, meatballs, and dips.
- Pioneer Woman 6-Quart Portable Slow Cooker Flea Market, $25 at Walmart: Who says countertop appliances can't be girly? This slow cooker comes dressed in pretty vintage clothing. It's big enough to hold a heap of Ree's sticky spicy slow-cooked ribs and the tight-sealing lid has clips to lock it into place when you're carrying it.
- Hamilton Beach Wrap & Serve 6-Quart Slow Cooker, $37 at Target: This model comes with a reversible plastic strip to wrap around the exterior surface to change up its look according to the occasion. One side is an attractive chevron pattern, and the other a chalkboard that you can use to ID your dish when your cooker's sitting on a buffet. To keep the design front and center, the control knob is on the side. A strap to keep the lid in place when you're taking pulled pork to a PTA benefit is included.